Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 697
Corporal Jonathan (Johnny) Church
Corporal Jonathan (Johnny) Church, the protagonist, a soldier during England’s civil war. Tall, with autumn-colored hair and tawny eyes, the twenty-year-old Johnny is solemn and sorrowful. Coming from a strict Presbyterian family, with a cold mother and a bitter, cruel father, he is quiet, shy, and solitary. He is not, however, formally religious, though he later longs to become so. A somewhat rebellious youth who thought he would change the world, he disobeys his father and runs away to join Cromwell’s army. He quickly adjusts to the life of a soldier, hiding his fear and remaining aloof. He is watchful and witty, easily led and influenced by others, especially by Robbie Lokyar, Francis White, and, of course, Oliver Cromwell. Elected an Agitator of his company, he carries on the struggle for liberty. Betrayed and disillusioned, he becomes suspicious and distrustful. Feeling abandoned, he becomes melancholy and full of despair and emptiness. His thoughts become uncontrollable as he reassesses his life from a position of being adrift and afraid yet longing for comfort and reassurance. He finally comes to terms with his life and his God. Along with his friend, Thankful, he is shot for treason.
Corporal Thankful Perkins
Corporal Thankful Perkins, Johnny’s closest friend and a fellow soldier. A small nineteen-year-old with a frail yet strong face and brown curls, Thankful is a gentle, loving, and compassionate friend. Angelic and pure of heart, he is deeply religious and shines with an inner light. Unfortunately, he is much too trusting; when betrayed, he is shocked and grieved. He conquers that grief, however, and meets his death with courage and grace.
General Oliver Cromwell
General Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentary Army that overthrew and executed King Charles I; he later became the ruler of England. A strong, imposing man with a stern and ugly pockmarked face and a very large nose, Cromwell inspires great loyalty within the army but is a rather melancholy, petulant, and preoccupied man. Operating with a strong inner voice, he is not easily swayed or weakened and is very persuasive. He knows his purpose and will do whatever is necessary to accomplish his goals. At the same time, despite his many contradictions, he always appears completely sincere in his actions. Eventually, he is faced with inevitable choices, and his decision to execute the Agitators becomes a matter of political survival.
Gideon MacKarkle, an older soldier. Extremely ugly, with a large nose, a big mouth, droopy eyes, and gray hair, the skinny Gideon becomes Johnny’s first instructor on how to survive as a soldier. Gideon is bright, quick, and an excellent soldier.
Robbie Lokyar, a twenty-year-old Agitator. Not a deeply religious person, he is intelligent and interested in reason, and he has a strong sense of purpose and direction. A born leader, he imparts that direction to his fellow soldiers, especially to Johnny and Thankful, spurring them all to rise to action. Disillusioned with Cromwell’s compromises and behavior, he becomes quite vehement in his criticisms and, going too far, is executed. His death makes him a martyr and a symbol for future actions. It also thrusts the burden of leadership onto Johnny and Thankful.
Cornet Henry Denne
Cornet Henry Denne, an officer in Cromwell’s army. A very religious man, with a passionate, moving voice, Denne becomes, for a short while, one of the Agitators. His loyalty is not strong, however, and he betrays the other Agitators to Cromwell. All the Agitators are sentenced to death; he is the only one to be pardoned.
Cornet Thompson, another officer. A fine, swashbuckling, stereotypical soldier, he has a sanguine character. Like the others, he too is an Agitator, but he remains loyal to their cause. Despite a last-minute appeal for pardon, he is executed.
Nell Cockburn Lacy
Nell Cockburn Lacy, Johnny’s aunt and mother of his son. Married at the age of fourteen to Sir Valentine Lacy, Nell is like a fairy princess. She always appears young and beautiful, and Johnny falls deeply in love with her. She conceives Johnny’s child on the night her husband dies.